Multitasking is the buzzword nowadays in all the areas of life be it gadgets, people or process. In this era of hectic lifestyle and struggle for survival people want to do more and more things in limited time and that also in parallel. Expectation nowadays has become that everything should run in parallel. In olden days people followed an approach of concentrating on one task completing it and then moving to the next task. But this has become obsolete now. Be it professional life or personal family life multitasking has become so essential that you must do it to be successful. Nowadays things cannot wait one behind the other in a queue to be done. You need to work on multiple things at the same time. Students need to study many subjects together, an employee needs to do a number of tasks together in the workplace, a housewife needs to handle multiple household chores at the same time.
I feel that sometimes this approach of multitasking is greatly hyped by the people. It may not be always productive and in some situations completing one task and starting other may prove more advantageous. But is it that for the people who prefer to do the things sequentially cannot survive? I think multitasking or single tasking approach depends on situation and priorities so multitasking may not be taken as a rule book. As with everything multitasking too has its pros and cons, so let us have look at them below.
Merits and Demerits of multitasking
All round progress One of the main advantages of doing multitasking in different areas of work is that we can get an all-around progress. Each of our tasks would have started and in progress though not finished. Human psychology wise this is an advantage as mentally we will think that we have started everything and nothing is untouched. Sometimes this feeling gives motivation and positive spirit to continue with the work. On the other hand if we start the next task after completing the previous task then there will be a thinking that so many things are untouched and yet to start and only one is completed. Hence it tends to demotivate few people and they come under stress. It is important to mention that this is purely a psychological phenomenon and it may not be true for all the people but I would say the majority of people would think like this though the overall time required to do series of tasks is likely to remain the same. Still there are people who feel comfortable in doing things one after the other rather than multitasking.
Focus on work One of the demerits of multitasking is that you have to switch your focus among different tasks. You may be doing one task in a focused way but you have to leave it and start with other task maintaining same focus. Though many people are able to do this well but there are some people who find it difficult to switch their focus repeatedly and their productivity decreases. On the other hand, if a single task is done at a time a person can complete that task without getting their attention diverted.
Quality of work Sometimes the quality of work during multitasking may be impacted for some people as they are trying to do everything together and their attention gets divided. Also they are not able to work continuously on one task till the end at one go. So their mind frame keeps switching and sometimes due to this they are not able to analyse the finer details of the task they are doing. Due to repeated switching of work deep thinking on single task is sometimes not possible and it may impact quality of the task.
Lack of continuity Whenever you are doing multitasking you have to leave your work in between, start with another work and again come back to the same previous work and start it from where you left it. This creates a discontinuity and sometimes we need to spend time in recalling where we left the work and how we were doing it. Had we done the work in a single flow we could have done it in continuity and there are chances that it would take less time. So this seems to be one of the demerits of multitasking.
Tracking the work If you are doing several things together then you have to properly track the progress of all the tasks. Sometimes it happens that you get too occupied while doing multitasking and you lose the track of the tasks and at times also forget about few tasks. So tracking of work becomes challenging in multitasking sometimes and may prove to be a demerit.
Multitasking mindset Though multitasking is becoming very popular it does not suit equally for all types of people. Some people tend to do it more efficiently while others fall back a bit while doing it. It all depends on persons character and mindset. Some people prefer doing one task at a time given a choice. When such persons have to do multitasking due to the need of the hour, they may not be able to manage them well. While there are other persons who thrive very well in a multitasking environment and are able to handle it well. Actually, multitasking requires very crisp and clear mind with fast thinking capability and presence of mind, hence it may not be everybody's piece of cake. So it can be merit for some and demerit for others.
So whether you like it or not multitasking is the need of today and everyone has to get used to it. It is very important to be able to do multitasking nowadays to be successful in life. Whether it is kids studies, office work, home chores, outside chores everything requires multitasking. But it is not that everytime you need to keep on doing multitasking. It depends on priority also. Multitasking comes into picture mainly when all the tasks are of equal priorities and need to go together. But if priorities the are defined for the tasks then doing multitasking makes no sense as obviously high priority task has to be completed first, medium priority next and then the lowest priority.
Hence we should be practical in our approach towards doing the tasks and deciding whether multitasking is required and would be beneficial or not. Multitasking is not a rule book and comfort level of a person also plays an important part. If a person feels that he is more comfortable in doing things one by one and he believes that he can give the same productivity without hampering the deadlines then obviously he should not forcibly get into multitasking mode.
Multitasking as called by many is the order of the day, meaning attending to many works at a given time. For example, talking over phone while eating or driving. Now we are in a world which is running at a very high speed. In olden days people used to say it is wise to stand and drink water rather than running for milk. But days are changed. We will not get even water if we stand and wait for somebody to come and give it to you. There is no guarantee that you will get a glass of water even though you run, as many running fast ahead of you. So we should have a good plan of attacking multiple problems at a time and we should plan in such a way that we can be able to complete our works ahead of others.
If we see in a kitchen, the housewife starts cooking rice and while the rice is getting cooked on a stove, on another stove she will start making curry and Sambar. So by the time she finishes cooking the rice, the other two items will be also ready for eating. This is how she does multitasking at a time. It follows the system of one at a time if she follows she takes three times more time. This principle we all should follow and plan our works in such a way all the works will be attached simultaneously. This multi-tasking requires a lot of concentration on the work and understanding on the subject.
In Telugu literature, some poets will do a programme called Astavdhanam means they will do 8 works at a time and by the end, all the works will be completed almost at the same time. This requires a lot of remembrance power and only a few posts who are having excellent skills of remembering the tasks and having very good vocabulary only can do it.
So the people who will address many works at one time will definitely forge ahead than others. In this world of high competition, this is required very much.
Time and money saver
Multitasking is all about completing many tasks at the same time. This definitely saves lots of time. If we carry out tasks separately then it can be time-consuming. If we do the tasks side by side then it saves us lots of time. It does not mean that we can carry out two different types of tasks together. This will really create havoc. It simply means carry out tasks which are related to each other. Multitasking also saves us a lot of our hard-earned money. For example, we can multitask in our office and finish work beforehand and thus we do not have to employ others to whom we can outsource our work. Or else we can hire just one single person who can multitask instead of hiring five different people for five different tasks. Same goes for house chores. If we can multitask and finish all or most of our household chores then we can save money which we had to pay to the maid.
Damaging to the brain
Multitasking demands us to juggle between tasks. It is not easy for everyone. Only those who are comfortable with it can do it easily and for them, it is hardly any struggle. However, most of us will find ourselves inefficient to carry out multiple activities in the same period of time. Inefficiency can result in stress. Area of the brain which can result in stress is the same area which is most involved during multitasking. Thus, multitasking and stress have a close association. Switching between things will cause lots of distractions. This will not only decrease our attention power but will also cause lots of frustration and irritation in us. All these can give completely opposite results. Instead of achieving lots of things, very little gets accomplished.
I guess multitasking is the order of the day and there is no escape from it.
As one who has thirty plus years of experience in the Corporate Sector, in various organizations, I have observed that those who do multi-tasking are more favored than the rest of the employees across the organization.
For instance, several organizations of the TVS group are Deming Award organizations, where the excellent quality processes need a huge uplift, in terms of daily maintenance and monitoring of hundreds of quality parameters, Right from the operators, who not only do production tasks but also do SAP inputs, to the supervisor who needs to go through and take corrective action based on inputs on the SAP platform, everyone does multi-tasking as communicators of vital decisions, as supervisors who delegate responsibilities to others, as quality monitors, as specialists in advanced techniques like Statistical Quality Control and so on. The entire organization literally mandates a huge number of people to do multi-tasking, almost as a routine.
Yes, it is very stressful, it demands patience and tact and a huge amount of shrewdness in understanding the meaning of the data, as it were. The staff are appropriately trained.
However, multi-tasking is often done only with people who show initiative and drive, to work far beyond the confines of their job descriptions, even at the operator level. Hence, those operators who literally do the job of supervisors, without ever being called Supervisors, are given the multi-tasking responsibilities.
Eventually, they get to become Supervisors and even members of the Management Staff in the course of time. Several such operators are sponsored by the company itself to complete their Diploma in Engineering through the part-time mode. Once qualified, they are given higher responsibilities.
Multi-tasking does often take a huge toll on one's health. The better organizations send the key employees for a regular checkup and also advise them to take rest off and on.
The rat race that is so much part of us, demands that we do multitasking at home, though we cannot match the multi-tasking roles of our wives or the passion that they bring to such tasks.
So, it is but essential that we learn to do multi-tasking on a very urgent basis, whether at home or at an office. If we do not develop the appropriate skills, we are bound to see the world changing so much around us. We can only watch, helplessly, what is happening.
The choice is ours.